Crisis Intervention Guidelines

Both psychological crises and psychological emergencies warrant an immediate call to the GWU Counseling Center for crisis intervention.

A psychological crisis situation occurs when the student feels unable to cope with the circumstances of his/her life. The more helpless the individual feels, the greater the crisis. Typically, a person may be temporarily overwhelmed and unable to carry on, but is not in immediate physical danger. Crisis intervention helps a person cope with the immediate situation and make a plan to address any ongoing problems. A psychological crisis may be triggered by a traumatic event such as an accident, a loss of a family member or loved one, or some kind of assault, or it may be related to exhaustion and severe stress. A psychological emergency exists when the crisis is so severe that the person is potentially in danger and may need to be hospitalized. A psychological emergency occurs when a person is:

  • Suicidal
  • Aggressive towards others
  • Gravely impaired: confused, agitated, disoriented, having hallucinations or delusions

Gardner-Webb University provides crisis intervention as needed and as available. You may contact the GWU Counseling Center or a member of the Crisis Management Team (see appendix).

Mental Health Crisis

Anyone can experience stress associated with academic demands, family problems, social relations, work, finances and cultural experiences. The inability to cope with emotional distress can lead to disruptions in overall functioning.

Handling a Crisis

Sometimes a person’s usual coping skills are overwhelmed. The signs can include:

  • Highly disruptive or aggressive behavior
  • Overt suicidal threats (written or verbal)
  • Homicidal threats (written, verbal, or a history of violence)
  • Inability to communicate (incoherent, garbled, or slurred)
  • Loss of contact with reality

If you have concerns that someone is experiencing such a crisis, call 4444 to request assistance.

While waiting for aid to arrive (if you perceive no threat to yourself or others), you should:

  • Provide a safe, secure, quiet environment
  • Invite the person to stay until help arrives
  • Listen actively and show empathy
  • Maintain a straightforward, supportive attitude
  • Don’t leave the person alone unless you feel threatened
  • Don’t try to restrain the person if he or she wants to leave
  • Don’t challenge or shock the person
  • Don’t minimize the person’s distress


The procedure for crisis intervention is as follows:

  1. Contact the GWU Counseling Center for an assessment or assistance. If the GWU Counseling Center is closed or the student is acting aggressively or threatening to harm someone, call University Police. If you cannot call, enlist the help of another student – don’t try to handle a crisis alone. Tell the University Police who you are and that there is a crisis.
  2. Until help arrives:
    • Listen…. Avoid any physical contact and allow the student to talk.
    • Assist…. Provide a quiet atmosphere; minimize environmental stimulation. Give the student some space. Ask the student what or who might be helpful.
    • Recognize…. Know your limitations.

The Gardner-Webb Counseling Center staff will make an assessment and contact the student’s family or significant other, if it is necessary to protect the health and safety of the student or other persons. If hospitalization appears warranted, staff will either assist the student and his/her family in getting an assessment for admission or contact Woodridge Psychological Associates in Rutherfordton, NC at (828) 287-7806 or law enforcement if an evaluation for involuntary hospitalization is needed.